I think this year it holds an extra charge with the recent discovery of the remains of 215 children at a residential school site in Kamloops.
From what I read the Kamloops school had acknowledged that about 50 children had died at the school, but finding the bones of over 200 children was sickening, and that's just one school. When the residential schools were in operation there were 139 schools in Canada. Most of them closed in the mid-1970s, but some remained open until the late 1990s. Over 150,000 children were removed and separated from their families and communities to attend these boarding schools.
Indigenous people have been talking for a long time about how terrible the residential schools were, and they have spoken before about the children who disappeared. It's clear with this gruesome discovery and from what survivors have said, that many of those children were abused and died under terrible circumstances.
Since the remains were found at the Kamloops school, I've seen memorials around town about the tragedy, including this one I saw yesterday in downtown Vancouver.
This is horrible tragedy that took place in Canada and its effects are still deeply felt by the survivors, the friends, family members and communities affected. For those affected by this tragedy there are several crisis lines to call for support.
National Residential School Crisis Line
Support for former students and those affected
BC KUU-US Crisis Line
Support for First Nations and Indigenous
Both of these numbers are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I hope that in time we will all come to terms with what happened. That we'll be able to see the extent of tragedy and reflect together on that dark time in Canadian history and mourn for the many who suffered and died.
I hope we will be able to move forward towards a more inclusive society with less prejudice. I've been shocked by how much racism there is in Canada towards indigenous people, and I'm particularly concerned about young indigenous women.
There are still many missing indigenous women, one RCMP report estimated over a 1K, but activists say they have the names of over 4,000 women who have disappeared. And it's known that homicide rates is 6x higher for indigenous women.
I invite you to learn more and take action. Section 15 (page 89) of this summary has a number of actions that are for ALL Canadians to take action. It also includes links a number of resources to learn more.
I think it's important for Canadians to be aware of what happened in past and to be aware of what's happening now in the present. I think we all need to make an active choice to be supportive of indigenous people and communities.